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June 12, 2005

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Yeah, what she said!
Was the Open Book thread sparked by The View comment? I was wondering if you'd gotten into the fray on that one since I didn't see any comments here on it.

I'm with ya, sista! Women should try to nurse modestly simply because we should always be practicing modesty. I guess the trouble comes when people have different views of "modesty".

Well, I will head to Open Book...most of the silliness (that's a nice word for stupidity) I see comes from a secular viewpoint. And an awful lot of the pro-public-breastfeeding comes from people asserting their rights and their baby's rights. I like the way you state it in terms of public health.

We went camping this weekend. English weather being what it is, we shed our winter rain jackets (yes, in *June*...you remember those days!) to go to an indoor pool. I'd forgotten my bathing suit, so had to buy one without trying it on (and did ok, actually!). I had to nurse the 6 month old while watching the 3 and 5 yr olds in the water while my husband was off with the older boys. There was no way I could go to a chair somewhere on the side, so I just had to pop myself out at poolside. I used my hand to cover the top portion. I was rehearsing what I might say to anyone who approached me. In England, public nursing isn't protected and you can be asked to leave. Fortunately, no one said anything and I didn't have the stress. I can't wait to get back to the States, where I know I can always fall back on the anti-harrassment laws. It's not a cure-all, but at least I'll be able to make a big stink about it!

Well said! I agree on the blanket too, it draws extra attention and gives the impression that the mom is uncomfortable. I like button up blouses, a sweater/sweatshirt/open shirt over a t-shirt, or a nursing shirt when I'm in public. Anyway, I feel bad for people who get offended by public nursing. It just seems to be the height of prudishness to me.

Yes! Yes, and yes!!
Well said.

Gladly,
As a fervent developmentalist, I am firmly opposed to the blanket over the baby--eye contact! Teh baby needs eye contact--the blanket gets in the way. How about proposign that the mother puts the blanket over her head, inside of the blanket with the baby (yeah, right). I remember seeing a movie in a child development class that showed that in Japan even if a child is bottle fed the motehr will take off her shirt and hold the baby in a nursing postion.
Also, has anybody thought about the size of a baby's head? Except in teh case of hugeness, the baby's head usually covers all of the colored parts of the breast.

I'm bored to tears with all of the hoo ha over breastfeeding, public or otherwise. Get over it you repressed freaks. Ok, so that was mean, but it seems like such a stupid thing to get wound up about.
I loved this sentance:
that our bodies have been redeemed and our desires can be rightly ordered. Yes, breasts have been sexualized in this culture. So let's change the culture.

Sarah

I'm the oldest of five children, and grew up watching my mother nursing my younger siblings - often in tandem.

I think that Western society is so concerned/pre-occupied with sex, as opposed to other cultures around the world, we are taking a normal bodily function and demonizing it.

It's *feeding* a child. What gets more "normal" than that?

As always, a great breastfeeding post! I was just telling my dh the other day that I think our boys will grow up to have a healthy attitude towards breasts/breastfeeding because they are exposed to it so much.

Ah, secular objection to breast feeding "We mustn't objectify women's bodies - and put that thing away!".
My Dear Wife asked me to drop by in my unofficial role as Catholic Theologian and gadfly [I paid enough money for the degree, I'm gonna' capitalize it!].
The purpose of breasts is feeding babies. Using Thomistic principles, that means feeding babies with breasts is (in the absence of other weirdness) innately good. One of the possible secondary attributes of breasts is erotic attractiveness; this is acceptable as long as it does not lead one to sin (lust, vanity, pride, etc.), does not create disordered thinking, and does not interfere with proper first functions.
Theologically, we should all be fine with public breastfeeding (hence, morally, too). The fact that Western culture has objectified female breasts (I hate to say 'sexualized' - women's bodies *in general* are to be appealing to men, including the breasts. I prefer 'objectified' because it is the emotional and moral separation of the body part from both the whole of the body and from the concept of the person they are a part of) is moot. The error is in the observer.
Now, that doesn't mean strip to the waist in the Chuck E. Cheese's, either. The flaunting of *any* part of the body can be in error, and the knowledge that many around us objectify breasts means that one should be mindful of their issues and keep exposure to a modest minimum.

In other words - Gladly is right.

And as the father of 4 breast-fed boys I must say that I am pleased to see it - more healthy kids for mine to meet some day!

Holy handgrenades Batman! What an outstandingly written post! I applaud thee! Personally, I was much more comfortable nursing my first in public than my fourth... Mainly because I couldn't nurse and keep tabs on the rest of the kdis at the same time. So I nursed in the car a lot. What really amazed me was nursing in the designated nursing room at our last church. (A great church -and a great room with rockers and closed circuit tv!) Women were covering up in there! With only other women! And giving me weird looks because I didn't! Hmph!

No, no, no. It's not the breast that's offensive~we see cleavage quite regularly~it's the NIPPLE. Heaven forbid that someone might see a flash of nip. THAT would be horrendous. Think of the social upheaval.

Amen

My friend told me the other day that a blanket with nursing is like hanging a neon sign that says, "Exposed Boob" above your head... I agree and have refused the blanket since try #2, 3 years ago. So far? No comments, few looks and I am unscathed and happier for it (as are my boys).
Great post (as always).
ps. My husband is more comfortable with his wife having breastfed... he says that it brings it to his age group too (vs. his Mom).
~Julie

As I move into the nursing my toddler camp again, I find that this time I am adamently opposed to nursing with a blanket. I can't stand it. Besides, which is more discreet, watching Mami struggle to keep the blanket over the baby, or just cuddling the baby close and discreetly lifting a bit of my shirt. Nothing shows, baby is happy, and quite frankly, most people don't even notice that he's nursing.

I find that at this age, I do prefer to nurse at home, but that's because he's very distractable, not because it's wrong to nurse in public. but what am I supposed to do when I'm out for hours on end with the older children? He doesn't drink anything but water and breast milk - and I am certainly not going to pump milk for our outings (even if I had a pump - well, I do have a pump, but some of the pieces are missing, and I don't care to replace them at this point).

you're right, and I love this part

"Let us rejoice in the truth: that our bodies have been redeemed and our desires can be rightly ordered. Yes, breasts have been sexualized in this culture. So let's change the culture."

Amen.

I agree with everything you said except for the puritanism. It sounds more like a Victorian invention. The puritans were right on with their thoughts of sexuality within marriage and other natural God-made functions. They have a bad reputation. The Victorians, however, were sexually all wrong going so far as to cover up piano legs because they were lewd, or performing the marital act through a hole in a sheet.

The Puritans were fine. The Victorians have screwed up sexual thinking for generations. And their damage goes on!

I'm not bothered by public breatfeeding. If my kid has to eat, my kid has to eat. And my wife is discreet. She doesn't hide that she's breastfeeding, but it's not a show either.

I do think it's ridiculous that she's nursing our daughter after the age of one, though.

Dominic is my husband, btw, and I'm still working on him about bf'ing after one year. My daugther and I still enjoy it, and we only nurse a couple of times a day (I have almost no milk since I'm pg) but I don't see any reason to stop. I think there are benefits beyond nutrition. But, I respect that he doens't understand it. :-)

Love you, honey!

Not to start anything, but Dominic I am truly puzzled as to why you find nursing a one-year old ridiculous. Would you care to enlighten me?

Delurking to say, thank you for a great post. A voice of reason in the latest silliness over breastfeeding. BF is good and people need to see it. (Not nipples and breasts on exhibition, but the act). I found that the hardest to navigate with my daughter--luckily she was a great eater and was quite easy to keep discreet. My son resisted blankets and even staying latched on--he would nurse then pull off and he wanted to look around. Luckily he was my second and I knew it was worth continuing. But I had my list of comebacks at the ready. I can only hope that when my daughter (now 3) has a baby, she won't need comebacks against the prudish, unnatural or lewd.

Bravo! I absolutely love what you've said here. I never, ever would have thought that "Squeamishness about breastfeeding smacks of Gnosticism and puritanism". I'm going to have to tell my DH that one, I think it's so brilliant (he got his Master's in Historical Theology at Westminster in San Diego, and we've had quite a few conversations about Gnosticicm and the Puritans). It would take up too much room to quote it, so I'll just say that I loved every word in your second to last paragraph. I found myself rejoicing for my redeemed body and thanking God that our physical desires can be properly ordered. What a wonderful thing that is! And being able to serve our beautiful babies with our bodies ... whoa, now THAT is deep! LOL =)

BUT, about what you said regarding blankets. I'm going to have to think about that one. When I was BF my son, I DID feel weird about doing so at church in particular. I honestly don't know if it's b/c I didn't want anyone else to see my belly fat, or b/c I really didn't want to "flash" one of my friend's husbands as they walked by. I know it's a totally non-sexual thing, but I still didn't want a guy I knew well, or one of the teenage boys who were often serving in the back to see my boob. Was that stupid of me? Maybe. Like I said, I'm going to need to think about that one. (Your thoughts would be appreciated too).

Rebekah from the above comment referred me to your blog and I am SO GLAD she did!

I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said--it's very refreshing to read about a Catholic who seems to completely agree with me :) I'm a few years behind you--my first son is 15 months old and I just joined the Church last year--but I'm considering homeschooling, too.

I'm off to go read your archives and add you to my blog list.

Thank you so much for your wonderfully articulate post.

A beautifully written and articulate post that I wholeheartedly agree with. And I'm not even a Christian :)

It is so silly to me, SO SILLY, that it's just fine and dandy for clothing manufacturers to make clothing for prepubescent girls that show off all sorts of their skin, and say things like "SLUT" across the chest, but we breastfeed our own babies and somehow we are incecent?

And then people want us to go into bathrooms (ew, would an adult be asked to eat in a bathroom) or wherever AWAY from "the public" who might be "offended". Gah!

I WAS recently fortunate enough to read a pro-breastfeeding article. From my own city! And written by a man, no less! Good on him to counter what the OTHER media man in my city recently said about breastfeeding, comparing it to public urination. Sigh.

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/jamieson/227970_robert10x.html

Everybody, thank you for your comments. I wasn't sure what to expect after I read the Open Book discussion!

Anne, I'll defer to you on the Puritans -- I wondered if I might be doing the Puritans an injustice.

Linda, you are totally right. Doesn't your town have a dedicated riot squad to respond to accidental nipple exposures?

Rebekah, I hear you. I'm chewing on another post on the discretion issue. I'll never tell another woman she shouldn't use a blanket; I also won't tell another woman how much she should cover. Comfort with public nursing is highly individual and if you're happier with a blanket then use that blanket.

Dominic, I blogged about older nurslings in response to a comment on my public nursing post last summer. I don't know if you'll find it persuasive but it's here if you're interested.

Hear Hear!!!!!
I was just in a discussion with some other CNMs here about how our culture has marginalized natural mothering (including normal childbirth and subsequent breastfeeding). I am now seeing 20 year olds who have had breast reduction surgery done in their late teens!!! The fact that these girls may one day want to breastfeed doesn't even seem to be considered (and I do give all of the the information about BFAR and book recomendations too). It is because the breast is seen as primarily cosmetic and not functional, I think. It is similar to the women who demand cesareans to 'prevent getting too loose down there'.
As incarnational Christians, we have a duty to show love and respect for the natural law God has written in our hearts.
BTW, I just read Sheila Kipply's new book on breastfeeding and catholic mothering. I think you would like it a lot.

Just another man here, alerted by his wife. Such a well-written post, and so very very true.

A) Not a very erotic sight. And so what? There are plenty of clothed erotic sights in public spaces if that's what you're looking for. Get used to it.

B) Nursing at one year old? More power to you! The WHO now recommends a minimum of two years.

C) Apparently infant carseats save a handful of lives a year. More breastfeeding would improve public health immeasurably more.

So: More public breastfeeding! Right now!

Very good - just to clarify, however, at my blog, Open Book, I'm clearly and forthrightly of the public breastfeeding camp, and have never understood why anyone cares. Some of my commentors were using the modesty meme, but lots and lots were not and argued against it.

whoops - wrong URL there. this is the link to my blog. Although that other one's good too.

I have never been challenged about breastfeeding in public, but if I was, I would just say that I fed my baby in the Sistine Chapel and nobody minded there ... so if it was OK there then it's OK anywhere else!
Joanna

Jamie, Domenico Bettinelli posted about Baba Wawa and such on his blog today: (it won't let me post the url, because it thinks it's spam, but it's bettnet dot dyndns dot org , about 4 posts down as of right now).
He links to Michelle Malkin's column this week, which is also good.

Do you see how self-righteous y'all sound here? If breastfeeding on demand, everywhere and anywhere with no limitations is what you think is perfectly OK, then go to an all-boys high school and do it there. You think it won't upset some of them? Enough to react? Or make jokes? Or get embarrassed? Or be uncomfortable? From what I've read here, you don't care much.
That's my problem with your attitude, "I'm right, everyone else get over it." Sorry, that's not charitable.

Very few of those comments on Amy's site said no, do not b-feed in public. What they did say was cover up and be modest. And y'all seem to have a problem with that.

Jo, I know it's uncharitable to say, "I'm right; get over it" -- thence the ROACH acronym. I'm trying to listen to both sides. It's frustrating to hear breastfeeding compared to urination over and over.

I agree with Jo. The attitudes of a couple of posters on the Open Book thread are decidedly unChristian, and I don't blame people for getting upset with them. The topic is why the subject becomes so emotional, and I agree with those who said that some of the more intense and insistant breastfeeding advocates can be quite bullying in their behavior. I myself had to ask hospital personnel to refuse access to my room to LaLeche League people when I was having my oldest child. She was insufferably rude and grabbed at my breasts as if they were separate entities from my body. If someone on the street did that, they'd be arrested for assault.

Also, I agree with those who felt that breastfeeding doesn't give a woman the right to cross the line of courtesty when it comes to bringing children to places where they don't belong. I found it odd that one poster was offended at the sight of breastfeeding in church, yet became rude and mocking when it was suggested that breastfeeding didn't belong at a better restaurant. Apparently, breasts are offensive to God, but it's alright to be rude to everyday people.

Making nonbreastfeeding women feel like failures, or judging them on sight (as one poster did) without knowing why they're using a bottle in that moment, or even whether or not she's able to breastfeed is unChristian, too.

Live and let live. I think this is a private decision, and I think it's not for anyone to judge another woman about, or bully her, or lie to her, or harrass her.

For the person who was putting down teenagers who had breast reduction surgery done, my roommate at college had it done. She was in pain 24/7, had serious back problems, and was tired and even feeling defeated by the lewd and gross comments she had to put up with whenever she walked down the street. It's not just vanity, and sometimes there are good reasons.

Public breastfeeding doesn't bother me. I rarely notice these things. But breastfeeding doesn't make anyone better or more loved by God, and it doesn't give anyone the right to be rude and ignore other people's expectations of courtesy, either.

Another thought, because this bugs me no end, and I have my own little theory on why the all-"natural"-all-the-time/religious crowd does this, but I'll keep that to myself for now -- as fed up as you are with breastfeeding being equated with urination, some of us are a little fed up with breastfeeding being held up like it's some kind of sacrament. They're both normal, natural body functions for all mammals, and probably a few other critters. There's nothing holier about breastfeeding than there is about peeing. When you start to raise breastfeeding above any other body function and attach some kind of weird religious status to it, then you're guilty of something just as obnoxious as those who say "you don't see people peeing, pooping and having intercourse in public, do you?".

Sometimes I think some breastfeeders want a little special attention. And, before anyone jumps all over my case, I said SOME, and I think it's a small percentage, at that. I think they want to be thought of as special or unusually self-sacrificing on some level. Got a theory about that, too, but I'm havin' a real cyncial day today, so I'll stay quiet on that one, too.

Breastfeed by all means, and do it as needed in public. The truth is the overwhelming majority of people in the world probably won't even notice, much less care. But please don't go around thinking it makes you special or that other people have to make concessions for you just because you breastfeed.

Jamie, I think most of us knew you were joking with the "I'm right, get over it" thing; I thought the ROACH acronym was great. Please don't stop doing things like that just because the occasional reader misinterprets. :)

Jennifer, it's inconsistent to draw the conclusion that breastfeeding and urination are metaphysically equivalent simply because they are scientifically equivalent. (And actually, their scientific equivalence is arguable.)

I would argue that breastfeeding is much holier than urination. The holiness of a thing is related to its metaphysical definition, not its scientific one. Breastfeeding is a mammalian function, but it is foremost a part of the nurturing of a new life, an undertaking which is the primary purpose of Christian marriage and an eminently valuable and venerable thing. Urination is a bodily function which serves an important purpose, but a negative one. It does no nurturing, no building, no helping to grow. I don't know what your motivation is in lowering breastfeeding to that level, but I think that you're insulting mothers throughout the ages, mothers who have worked hard to give their children the food they need, by doing so.

I'm not lowering anything to any level. Nor am I raising anything to any level. By your own logic, marmosets are capable of holiness through breastfeeding.

One could certainly make the point that urination and defecation do indeed nurture in a sense in that they provide the bottom of the food chain, and so on, but why bother dickering over something that's beside the original point.

The point was that there are SOME (some...some...not all...a small percentage of...a certain faction among...some) breastfeeders who consider themselves somehow better human beings (and better mothers) because they breastfeed and therefore ought to be granted all sorts of concessions and "special" treatment because they are merely carrying out this perfectly natural and normal function. In reading the various blogs and their commentary following the Barbara Walters situation, I am struck by a certain attitude prevalant among the whackier "lactovists" and the more sanctimonious types, and I find it quite insulting to those who are not able to breastfeed, or who may find themselves using a bottle occasionally for one reason or another (which is NEVER anyone's business but the mother's and her pediatrician's). Breastfeeding is not a license to be a bully, to judge, to condemn, to preach, or to take your children where they don't belong in the first place.

On the one hand, we have breastfeeders wondering what the big deal is and why people are fussing over a perfectly natural and normal process, and then on the other we have lists of ways we all have to cater to breastfeeding moms because they're under so much stress, and even your own last sentence in which you indicate that mothers have "worked hard to give their children the food they need". Well, sounds like some people want things both ways. They want to promote breastfeeding as just the normal process (and I'm not disagreeing), but then they want people to think they're working harder than bottle-feeding moms and that they're sacrificing oh so much more, and all that.

Look - breastfeed away! But don't make like it grants you sainthood status. Athiests breastfeed, Buddhists breastfeed, Hindus breastfeed (actually, over the past 100 years or so, I'd be willing to bet more athiests, Buddhists and Hindus breastfed their babies than Christian women), and they've never expected any prizes for it. They did it because it's the normal process for feeding one's babies.

Breastfeeding isn't this big huge issue for almost everyone on the planet. It's just a noisy few, mostly here in the US (we're a noisy lot, we are), and on both "sides", who are making it a big deal. All I'm saying is that there are people who can get obnoxious about breastfeeding at both ends. The uptight types who see sex and dirt everywhere, and the professional earth mother types who are just so in-your-face about stuff everyone else manages to do without screaming for attention or special status.

A little respect and fairness are in order, too. Some men, especially those from older generations and certain cultures, may indeed be uncomfortable with public breastfeeding, and not because they're drooling cretins who go mindless at the sight of a breast. They're just the product of their upbringing and their time, and they don't mean to insult you. Have a heart and try a little understanding from their point of view.

I also have to laugh because the person on the Open Book thread who declared that bottle-feeding was so profoundly wrong that she couldn't even find it in her heart to be pleasant to a bottle-feeding mom or coo over her baby is also the same mother who expressed shock at the local authorities who requested that she please stop sending her small, unsupervised, unattended children off to swim in a local, unguarded pond or lake, and who also thought it was perfectly alright to allow her little boy to sleep over at a strange man's house just because it saved her from giving the poor child a ride home, and only went and got him because the child (infinitely more intelligent than she is, obviously) expressed discomfort at the idea - and - get this - the same coach was arrested for child molestation a short time later!

So, um, forgive me if I find some of the more annoying breastfeeding advocates truly out of line.

Jennifer,

Are you Catholic? I'm going to guess no. If you were, you'd know that marmosets cannot be capable of holiness through breastfeeding because marmosets are not capable of holiness, period. Among animals, only humans, who have rational and immortal souls, are capable of holiness.

I don't think you're really addressing any of Jamie's points. Clearly you've had bad experiences with some breastfeeding advocates, but if you read Jamie's archived posts on the topic, I think you'll find that she is remarkably sensitive and non-judgmental. And since you're not addressing her arguments, why are you using her blog as a forum for venting? Perhaps you could find somewhere else to do that.

Well, I guess she can always tell me to do that herself, or maybe you just enjoy using other people's blogs to vent a little yourself, eh? ;-)

This post is based on a series of posts at another blog and on the comments to that series of posts. As an observer of that one, I followed the link to this one. Perhaps Jaime ought to ask Ms. Welborn to remove the link, but that's up to her, and probably a little unfair since she based her post on the Open Book posts.

I have addressed the overall tone of Jaime's post, and I've addressed a few points that came up at Open Book and were commented on here.

My comments are not directed at Jaime personally, but follow from her post and are made in general and are about a particular type of breastfeeder and are meant to offer a reason why emotions rise when this subject comes up.

But I get it. I have dared to take issue with the High Holy Priestesses of the Sacred Temple Of The Milk-heavy Breast, therefore I am to go.

Or, in other words, I didn't kiss enough ass here.

~yawn~

Bye.

Oops! Uh, yeah, I'm Catholic. So there.

Hey, Jennifer, as I hope you could tell from my email this morning, you are welcome to disagree with me. I'm not looking for anyone to kowtow to me here. I do ask that you keep it courteous if you decide you have more to say; I've deleted the snipe at Arwen from your last comment.

Jennifer,

For the record, I don't have kids, so my interest in the topics presented here is purely academic. I would never presume to judge any mom for how she feeds her baby, realizing that I will never know what she and her family may have been through.

But I would take issue with your saying, as a Catholic, that breastfeeding has no more or less than elimination. Look at the images of breakfeeding scattered throughout the Bible, used as illustrations of God's grace and care for us. Look at the image at the top of this post, which is part of a long tradition of "Maria lactans" images going all the way back to the earliest Christian art in the third century. At the risk of sounding disrespectful, one doesn't see pictures of Our Lady in the bathroom, and I attribute enough credibility to the tradition of the Church to believe there's a reason for that. Whether you like it or not, the tradition does place a high symbolic value on breastfeeding, and I would suggest that your attempt to deny that stems more from an understandable reaction to holier-than-thou behavior by a few breastfeeding advocates than from examination of the tradition itself.

Is breastmilk better for babies?
Are mothers who breastfeed thier babies better than mothers who formula feed?
Those are two different questions that seem to get mixed together.
I'm not Catholic and I'm not familiar with their ideas/policies/rules or whatever on breastfeeding children. I do feel that breastfeeding is a responsibility God gave to mothers. Maybe responsibility isn't the best word. I think its the natural thing and the way God inteded us to feed our children as they start their life.
Unfortunetly, a lot of things in the world are NOT the way He intended. I am emphatic about my children only recieving breastmilk the first part of thier little lives and yet I work outside of the home. There are people who would question my devotion to my children because I work. How come I can work outside the house and yet feel so compelled that they only get my milk the first 5 or 6 months and straight from me as often as possible? But I'll admit I question mothers who don't nurse or stop nursing because "I just didn't enjoy it", its too much of a hassle. There are hundreds of decisions that we make as mothers as to what we feel is best for our children: nursing them in public, giving or not giving them vaccines, circumcision, reading them Pat the Bunny or something else. I'll admit everytime another mother makes another choice I question my own decision and sometimes even feel like she must think I'm a bad mom for doing something different.
I've got serious mommy brain and have no clue what my point was.
Oh yea, I expect some respect for breastfeeding and for raising my children the way I see best. I'm not sure if this is the same as expecting special treatment that the previous poster was refering to. I don't expect people to make my life more difficult for doing what I think is right (breastfeeding in public in this debate), but if they are going be a pain, then I'm gonna suck it up and do what I think is best for my baby.

No act in itself is holy. It's the heart of the person behind the act that makes it holy. Given the disrespectful and rude attitudes shown by breastfeeders here and at Amy's blog, I think there are plenty of unholy women who are using breastfeeding as an excuse for their pushy and rude personalities. By their fruits you will know them - if they're rude and pushy people, all the breastfeeding in the world won't make them holy.

I never had a problem with breastfeeding mothers until now - until I read the comments at Amy's and the comments here, and especially comments from people who not only don't have children, but will probably have adopted children. Wait until you see what it's like to have to bottle feed a baby and have some stranger judge you and claim there's something profoundly wrong with you. It hurts. It's narrow and ugly and mean and it's wrong. But she's holy because she breastfeeds, according to some of you. I've had enough. No more. Breastfeeding women will NOT be met with politeness and pleasantness from me any longer. Good to know what people really think.

Wow. I have no kids myself, so this is a purely academic thing for me as well. I'm kind of torn about the whole thing, to be honest. But I just don't get the attacks on breastfeeding moms. I don't think that Jamie, in her year+ of writing, has ever come across as in-your-face or pushy. Granted, there ARE those people (I've heard bad bad stories sometimes about people being judged about not breast-feeding their babies). I just don't think that Jamie is one of them, or indeed that you should stop being nice to them because of the few in-your-facers.

Wow. I think the pushy, rude people you find in the breastfeeding world are just pushy, rude people. Breastfeeding doesn't make them rude. Before they started breastfeeding, they were rude and pushy about some other 'cause'. When they've finished breastfeeding, they'll find something else to be pushy and rude about. When they're grandparents, they'll be pushy and rude about some grandparent issue.

I think most people are against pushy and rude. Most nursing moms just want to be able to take care of their kids without a different sort of rude and pushy person threatening to arrest them.

When I was young and foolish, I had a "thing" about people who didn't breastfeed. I didn't have enough life experience to realize how hurtful some comments can be. I've learned a lot from some really charitable people. (I've learned a lot from some really rude folks, too!)

Now, my frustration and judgement at women's not nursing is directed at the lack of decent support....family, medical folks, societal taboos, etc. Breastfed babies are the best thing for a society and everyone should be as supportive as possible. "Supportive", in this case, means good knowledge, good attitudes and good assistance.

If society gets it's head on straight regarding breastfeeding (this includes breastfeeders themselves), no woman would ever be ashamed that she couldn't breastfeed. She would know that she did her best, had the best help and for reasons out of anyone's control, she couldn't nurse. And all those rude and pushy people (and those of us who have learned and changed) will *also* know that there is a legitimate reason and that the woman wasn't just too lazy or unloving or _insert your personal favorite here_ to nurse. No one will really care why because they'll know there is a *good* reason that the baby isn't nursed. (If thinking that there are lots of bad reasons these days for not nursing makes me rude and pushy, then I guess I am rude and pushy afterall)

I never want to hear another mother have to say, "Oh, I tried so hard and I just never had enough milk, had to take some medicine, couldn't do it in public, was afraid of the teeth, etc."
That's why we need lactivists...people to let the world know that breastfeeding is a good thing and that it is possible for most women to do it. Lactivists are breaking down the barriers. They don't always go about it in the most effective or loving way, but I don't know of any activist movements that were perfect.

Let's not lose the message because the messenger makes you want to shoot her!

A lot of what I read in the whole BFing discussion reminds me of the time that I (ack) went to a child free website and read on their boards. If you are a committed and involved parent, do NOT go there. It seriously affected the way I approached my children. I was so afraid that just by being out of my house with my kids (even in places where it was perfectly acceptable for them to be) that some person would be looking at me and thinking those terribly disparaging thoughts about me and my kids, or worse, making some comment.

I've had my fair share of glares and comments from other people when my children were acting in an age-appropriate manner, and I won't hesitate to fire back now. "If you don't want to see children in a restaurant, then don't come somewhere where it is kids eat free night, or someplace full of high chairs, crayons and kids' menus, for pity's sake." And I don't let my kids run around in restaurants or act up, they've been taken out for a little serious conversation etc.

But I knew the mindset was out there that heaped scorn and derision on my head for being a "breeder", and that foul names for my children were on the lips and in the thoughts of plenty of people who had posted them on these websits. So it really made me quite hesitant and upset for a while. You can just imagine how vitriolic they were about breastfeeding in public, when they were plenty nasty about the mere existence of children in public.

Now, I've grown as a parent and as a woman, and I have certain expectations for my family as far as their behavior goes that are met, or are met with consequences.

But I don't walk around fearful of being pounced on like I did for a while. And God help anyone who tries to pounce on me now.

I think the "breast is best" crowd, and especially those who use the "breastmilk makes for a better society" crowd don't get how judgmental that attitude is. First of all, breastfeeding is merely one factor among many that determine the future health of a child. All the breastmilk in the world isn't going to do much good if you destroy a child's immune system by begging your doctor for an antibiotic every time your child has a sniffle, nor will it do any good if you feed them fast food or pre-packaged, trans-fat loaded, nutritionally bankrupt food for the next fifteen years, nor will breastfeeding make up for genetic issues. Breastfeeding will not make a child who is not naturally predisposed for superior intelligence brilliant. Yet the "lactivist" would have it that those who do not breastfeed are bad parents and, worse, contributing to a bad society.

This is pure baloney. My kids were not breastfed, are never sick, have never been on an antibiotic (the youngest is 17 now), are all extremely bright (every single one of them has gotten into very competitive private schools, has been granted academic merit based scholarships, and has scored higher than 1400 on their SATs -- I'm not saying that test scores are the final word on intelligence, but it is one way to measure academic success, and, no, the schools they attend do not "teach to the test"), are good people with good hearts, are involved, interesting, active kids, and so on.

I know children who were exclusively breastfed for two to three years who are learning disabled, chronically ill, who catch every little bug that's going around, who are withdrawn and depressed, who are physically out of shape from inactivity, etc.

Yet we non-breastfeeding moms are bashed over the head with these thinly-veiled accusations and threats and judgments by the breast crowd every time we turn around, and I am fed up with it.

When every single breastfed child in the world is perfectly healthy, brilliant, completely without flaw, and science has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that breastmilk alone led to these paragons of perfection, then I'll believe a word of the propaganda the lactivists are throwing in my face every day. Until then, I'll look on my own children with love, pride and joy, know that I did a pretty darned good job in a world that doesn't make raising kids easy, and ignore the looney-tunes whose real purpose is to convince themselves that they're better than everyone else.

Best advice? Take care of your kids, don't let yourself be bullied or guilted or threatened into anything that isn't what's right for your family, and ignore people with agendas. They don't give a darn about you or your baby. They only care about themselves.

And God help anyone who tries to pounce on you for NOT breastfeeding. It's none of their damned business, and plenty of them have stupid, ignorant, unhealthy, overweight, annoying kids, so they don't have a leg to stand on.

Jamie,

I just wanted to say that I hope the appreciation of people who have been reading your blog from early on will outweigh the abuse from people who are coming here with chips on their shoulders to make mean, personal attacks and generally try to start a flame-war. For the most part, I see you and your regular commenters bending over backward to be civil and reasonable, while a very few newcomers are determined that they're going to be offended and they're going to offend right back, as hurtfully as possible. Don't let 'em get you down.

Dear Fed Up With Agenda: At least have the chutzpah to come here as YOURSELF not as an anonymous poster with a fake email, if you are going to hurl invectives around.

If you do not like what SCIENCE says, that's fine. That's your choice. SCIENCE does not say that breastfeeding COMPLETELY ELIMINATES EVERY HEALTH PROBLEM, but says that overall, statistically, it is better. It is the biological norm, and any other choice is going to be substandard to what our biology designed. Will you survive? Yes... probably, unless you live in Africa where the rate of death from dysentery and other GI diseases is sky high, because you can't get clean water. And when's the last time you heard of a recall on breastmilk?

For every anecdote (note: not scientific research) pointing out healthy smart perfect formula fed kids, I can point out an equal number of chronically sick, poorly behaved, snot nosed formula fed kids. And for every unbelievably healthy breastfed kid, I can show you some that are not. Heck, two of mine ended up with chronic ear infections, one with tubes. Sorry, they inherited my crappy inner ear formation. How much WORSE would it have been had I NOT breastfed them? Because of scientific research, I know it would have been worse.

Yeah, my parents never used a car seat, or seat belts for a long time, and I didn't die. We know better now. Yeah, I was fed Karo Syrup and condensed milk, and rice cereal at 6 weeks and I didn't die. But we know better now.

And I would NEVER presume to judge another mother's reason for not breastfeeding and say something to her. In fact my default assumption is that it must not have worked out, and I am very sympathetic.

Do I approach her on it? No, but I am very likely to admire her baby, and we have that little "oh how cute, oh they grow up so quickly, these are such sweet times, etc etc etc" exchange.

But, when a mom TELLS me straight out that she thinks it doesn't matter anyhow, or she thinks it is gross (hello, isn't that a judgment about MY choices?), or she couldn't be bothered, yeah, I'll have some thoughts in my head.

When a mother tells me her doctor told her to wean because she had to take a medication that I KNOW (because I own the book on medications and mothers' milk that is THE handbook on Lactational pharmocology and I have a darn sight more training in lactation management that just about every physician I've encountered yet, with the exception of the pediatrician we see) is NOT contraindicated when breastfeeding, I feel badly that she has a poorly informed medical doctor forcing her to make a choice that has long term implications to her health and to her child's health and well being.

So, don't come here saying "shut up." Don't live life with the expectation that I, or anyone else, have some sort of hidden agenda to attack unsuspecting mothers. Sheesh. How many formula feeding mothers do you know have been told that what they are doing is disgusting and sexual????

If people come to me and ask me what I know about lactation and breastfeeding, then I'll tell them. If they choose otherwise, then fine. It's their kid, it's their family, it's their choice, it's their consequence, whatever way it goes.

and frankly, what you said here, is right on:

" I'll look on my own children with love, pride and joy, know that I did a pretty darned good job in a world that doesn't make raising kids easy"

I totally agree with you.

Having read the comments here and at Open Book, I think that most agree to the following:

(1) In general, it is better for a mother to breastfeed her baby than not to breastfeed, and thus a mother should do it if she can.

(2) Particular circumstances sometimes make breastfeeding difficult or impossible, and thus it would be uncharitable to assume bad reasons of a mother who is not breastfeeding her baby.

(3) Justice demands that you grant mothers may need to nurse their babies, especially infants, in public.

(4) Civility demands that you take reasonable steps to be discreet about breastfeeding in public.

By the way, I don't get the animalistic reductions of breastfeeding by fellow Catholics in particular. Comments such as this one -- "When you start to raise breastfeeding above any other body function and attach some kind of weird religious status" -- make me wonder what on earth they think of what Christ did with eating and sex (hint -- think of the sacraments, namely Eucharist and Marriage).

Oh, don't worry, Ronny, this entire episode has slammed the door on Catholicism for me, anyway. You all can go for the gold medal in the Catholic Olympics or the parenting Olympics or whatever other competition you all can dredge up. You win. I'm sick of everyone climbing all over everyone else to beat them out in some imaginary contest in their head. You all need to be the bestest, mostest perfect everything ever, so I concede. You are. You win. I lose. Good for you. Who cares?

I don't mean to interrupt the fight or anything, but two weeks ago I was nursing my 16-month-old while at my older son's karate class, and the woman next to me laughed and said, "Isn't that cute? He thinks he's nursing!"

I had no blanket over the top of him. The seats are jammed so close together in the karate studio waiting area that we wouldn't have had trouble reading the same book. And yet I'd latched on a squirming toddler without her noticing, and with nothing more than a floppy shirt, I was able to "fool" her into thinking my son was "pretending" to breastfeed.

I said, "No, actually, he really is nursing."

We got a good laugh out of that. Most women can nurse without a blanket *and* without flashing their equipment around.

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